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Lewy wraps it up

Müller magic helps FCB see off Darmstadt

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Thomas Müller was the two-goal hero as Bayern moved 11 points clear at the top of the Bundesliga overnight in Saturday’s hard-earned 3-1 success at home to promoted SV Darmstadt, a morale-boosting victory prior to the crucial Champions League last sixteen meeting with Juventus which also saw winter signing Serdar Tasci make his debut for the record champions and Mario Götze return to the matchday squad.

The 75,000 full house at the Allianz Arena saw Pep Guardiola’s men lay siege to their opponents’ goal from the start and hit the woodwork twice in the first half, but the 26th-minute opener was scored totally against the run of play by the visitors’ former FCB striker Sandro Wagner. Müller struck the long overdue equaliser four minutes after half-time and then completed his brace in majestic style with a superb 71st-minute second, before Robert Lewandowski banished any lingering doubts with the third six minutes from the end.

Win number 19 in 22 league matches this term means the table-topping Reds are up to 59 points, now 11 clear of second-placed Borussia Dortmund at least until the black-and-yellows play Leverkusen on Sunday. The Bavarians are back in action on Tuesday in the European showdown with Juve in Turin, before the Bundesliga trip to Wolfsburg next Saturday afternoon.

Serdar’s debut at centre-back

Bayern boss Guardiola made three changes to the team that beat Augsburg in the league last weekend. Captain Philipp Lahm was rested, with Juan Bernat and Thiago dropping to the bench, where they were also joined by Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery and Götze. Rafinha started the match at right-back, Tasci took up station at centre-half alongside Joshua Kimmich, and Kingsley Coman began on the right..

The champions lined up with captain for the day Manual Neuer in goal, David Alaba, Kimmich, Tasci and Rafinha in the back four, Arturo Vidal in a classic holding role, and Müller, Douglas Costa, Arjen Robben, Coman and Lewandowski in a five-man attack.

Wagner’s shock opener

After seasoned referee Michael Weiner whistled play underway on a chilly and damp afternoon in the Bavarian capital, the home team moved straight onto the front foot with Robben loosing off two early shots, the first ballooning over the bar and the second claimed by Lilies keeper Christian Mathenia.

The openings came thick and fast, Rafinha’s 13th-minute drive from the edge of the box skidding narrowly wide with Mathenia beaten, before Lewandowski drew a superb stop from the visiting keeper after Costa’s brilliant assist. Mathenia then denied Müller in a one-on-one, Vidal’s shot was deflected onto the crossbar, and Lewandowski teed up Robben but Mathenia smothered the Dutchman’s effort.

A goal seemed only a matter of time, and it duly arrived after 26 minutes - but at the wrong end from an FCB point of view: Wagner initially failed to connect cleanly with Junior Diaz’ cross, but Sandro Sirigu returned the loose ball and former Bayern striker Wagner nodded past Neuer from five yards out.

Costa led the home team’s angry response but his shot was deflected onto the crossbar by György Garics. However, the Reds were visibly rattled for a spell and 40 minutes were on the clock before Müller’s shot was saved, Vidal’s free-kick was straight at Mathenia, and the keeper made up for a fumble that led to a corner with a diving save from Kimmich.

Müller show after the break

The league leaders emerged for the second half determined to level the scores and Müller duly obliged in the 49th minute with touch off his chest to control Rafinha’s chip and a fine right-footed finish. The Bavarians continued to apply pressure and added another weapon to their armoury when Ribery replaced Coman after 53 minutes, with Bernat also on for Tasci.

The Frenchman soon made a nuisance of himself with Lewandowski refused what looked like a clear penalty after Ribery’s cross, before Robben saw his ten-yard shot blocked and was then crowded out at the by-line. Lewandowski had the ball in the net after 68 minutes only for Ribery to be controversially flagged offside, but it was all forgotten three minutes later when Müller took Vidal’s chip on his chest with his back to goal but still flipped a right-footed finish over his shoulder and past Mathenia.

FCB moved in for the kill, Costa and Robben both going close, before Alonso took over from the Dutch ace for the last ten minutes. Lewandowski made sure of the win with a side-footed finish from Ribery’s 84th-minute centre, and almost doubled his tally a minute later only to be denied by Mathenia.

Live match report for by Chris Hamley